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Jesse James Hollywood gets life in prison for Santa Barbara murder

February 5, 2010 |  6:49 pm

A Santa Barbara judge on Friday sentenced Jesse James Hollywood to life in prison without parole, following the recommendation made by a jury last July.

The action by Superior Court Judge Brian Hill came nearly 10 years after the kidnapping and murder of 15-year-old Nicholas Markowitz in West Hills.

Prosecutors argued that Hollywood was the ringleader of a convoluted plot to avenge a $1,200 drug debt owed to him by Markowitz’s older half-brother. Four other men have been convicted in the crime.

“Today’s sentence finally concludes a long and very tragic case,” said Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown. “We hope it brings some measure of closure to the Markowitz family.’’

Nicholas Markowitz was held by his captors at a Santa Barbara motel and was shot to death at a popular hiking spot in the Santa Barbara foothills. The case inspired the 2006 movie "Alpha Dog,’’ which depicted an underworld of disaffected, frequently stoned, middle-class young people in the San Fernando Valley.

In lengthy legal proceedings, attorneys for Hollywood, now 30, tried unsuccessfully to have the case dismissed, contending that prosecutor Ron Zonen had turned over confidential investigative materials to the producers. The district attorney’s office took Zonen off the case.

Facing a possible death penalty, Hollywood was on the run for five years, finally settling in the Brazilian beach town where he was arrested in 2005.

--Steve Chawkins